My Most Recent QSO's

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Stealth Radio

I'm disappointed that some operators criticize the "stealth" mode of operation. I have several friends that operate this mode and see nothing wrong with preserving the skyline and the property values of my neighbors. And it's not necessary to have an unsightly array of aluminium tubing and steel wires running all over your property to have fun with this hobby. I call those "lightening rods".

I operate this mode because I'm forced to use an indoor antenna. It's a "must" due to restrictions in the "historic district" where I live. But I have a lot of fun with my station and the neighbors have no idea that I'm a ham radio operator. (other than seeing the 'tags' on my car).

I call this criticism "belated blathering" because it serves no purpose other than allowing the ham who has spent thousands of dollars on equipment, to justify themselves and feel successful in the hobby.

Some of us choose not to do that.

Every time I walk the shores of the Hudson River in New York City, I glance up at the skyscrapers with the hope of seeing one of my friends antennas. I've worked him a half dozen times with his random wire hanging out an apartment window. I have another friend that operates from hotel rooms, all over the east coast, from Florida to Pennsylvania. I recently worked a station in the mid west that was using his "rain gutters" for an antenna. I've worked stations in tents, sailboats, trains, and once listened to a pilot flying from Cancun to Phoenix at 35,000 feet. He was having a chat with a fellow in England.

The point I'm trying to make is that it's not necessary to spend thousands of dollars on equipment to have fun in this hobby. Some of us choose not to do so.

And that's OK.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm Going to Live After All

After the "dog bite" Saturday afternoon, I made a doctor appointment this morning. There wasn't an infection at the bite site, but my calve muscle was still bruised, and was very sore this morning. I called the doctor at 9:00 am and got an appointment at 2:30pm. I arrived at 2:15 and saw a nurse. I saw the doctor at 3pm and was out of the office by 3:30.

My wife, and several of my friends and family members were worried about "rabies" and I thought it would be good to set their minds at ease. (and leave me alone) My sister is a professional sanitarian and has dealt with this on the job. I was beginning to feel like a squirrel on the first day of hunting season.

I got the "all clear" signal from the doctor today.

My temperature was actually a little below normal. (a very good sign) with little irritation in the bite area. Of course, the muscle is still bruised, but considering the size of the dog, it's to be expected. It's going to be sore for a few more days.

The Doc suggested keeping in touch with the owners for another week. She also suggested (if this ever happens again) to demand the Veterinarians name, address, and phone number and to personally contact the Vet to verify the information. (in other words, don't take anyones word for it) We reviewed my inoculation history going back the last several years and after looking at those, she agreed it would be difficult for me to catch the common cold in the next few years. My tetanus shot was still current so no booster necessary.

Have a nice day and pay the receptionist before you leave the building.

No...I'm only kidding about that.

Actually, I use the Veterans Administration for my health care (the government run socialized medicine program). And while I have the podium, let me put in a good word for them. I use the VA clinic, not because it's the cheapest (which it is by far) but because it's the BEST medical care in this valley.

It's VERY well managed.

If I had gone to a "private doctor"...

#1. I would have been in the waiting room (for at least an hour) filling out an insurance form.
#2. I would have then seen a (pretend to be a nurse) who would have taken another 15 minutes taking a detailed medical history.
#3. I would then be taken back to the waiting room and forced to watch "FOX" news on the giant large screen TV.
#4. I'd get to see the doctor (if I was lucky) in another hour.
#5. I'd see the doctor and he would have given me a tetanus shot, an antibiotic shot, and scheduled me for an x-ray. (to keep from being sued in court)

Then the receptionist would demand about $150 bucks for services rendered. the way, I'd get another bill for the x-ray, and another bill from the person that "read" the X-ray.

I'd be really lucky to get in and out of a "private office" in under two hours.

I won't "spell it out" but you should get where I'm coming from with this entry. I don't have a problem with "socialized medicine".

Getting back to the dogs, I didn't want to appear overly confident, but they were well groomed, sheltered, and obviously healthy . The owners were genuinely concerned about me, cleansed the wound, and offered bandages etc. That's a pretty good sign they're honest and good folks.

I guess today was just a "safety check".

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dog Bite in the Country

I took off on the bike this morning with the intentions of riding a few miles in the city. But the weather was so cool, and I felt so good, I headed "out in the country" a few miles towards a little town just outside the city limits. For safety, I traveled the back roads as much as possible. It's about a 20 mile ride (round trip) to this little town.

As with most country rides, there's usually a "bad" section of road between small cities. Today was no exception and I needed to brave a major highway with very little bike space between it and the guard rail. Traffic being light, when I entered a major intersection, I sprinted as quickly as possible to the next exit. I had a sense of confidence as I exited the highway without a mishap.

I spent a few moments in the town, exploring the side streets along the river, and then rode out of this town and through some beautiful pasture land where a herd of cows gathered under a tall sycamore tree.

I was now in real country.

On the return trip, I hated the thought of braving that busy traffic on the highway again, so I decided to explore another avenue with the hopes of riding down the railroad tracks or along the river.

That was my first mistake.

Life is different in the country. It's common for country people to have a dog or two on a farm and as I approached the river, the road came to an abrupt halt. There was nothing to do except stop, dismount, and back track my path towards the busy highway.

That was my second mistake.

Across the field, I saw two large dogs approaching me. I wasn't alarmed. I'm comfortable with most dogs and consider myself a decent judge of character when it comes to body language. I was off the bike and didn't have time to turn and ride off quickly. I should have stooped down and grabbed a hand full of rocks.

That was my third mistake.

It could have been much worse. I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to maneuver myself into a better position to avoid the dogs. I could have defended myself, if it had been only one, but two big dogs were a bit too much for me. One of them got me on the right calve around knee high as I attempted to place the bike in a defensive position. After the bite, I was able to gather a hand full of rocks and send them both scattering for home.

I just wasn't quick enough.

The strange thing about this attack was there wasn't so much as a bark. It really caught me off guard. The body language didn't indicate a confrontation. The smaller one circled behind me and just "bit"......just for the hell of it.

As I stood there for a few moments, cursing the situation and tossing a few more rocks, off in the distance I noticed a small boy on a bike heading my way. I could tell he was concerned about me. I discovered quickly it was his dog and fortunately, (according to his parents) had been vaccinated.

It wasn't a bad bite. (this is sort of thing is like an occupational hazard with bicyclist in the country) It's not the first time I've been bit. I guess the really sad thing about this event was that I didn't have my "dog spray" with me. A good dose of "spray" on the end of the nose, and into the eyes, will stop even the most vicious of dogs. It's harmless for the most part and would have worked in this situation.

The father, mother, son and I talked for awhile as they poured plenty of hydrogen peroxide over the bite area. There's a very small puncture wound in my right calve muscle and some other small marks just under my knee. It's pretty mild for such a large dog. We cleaned the entire area with some paper towels. They offered some band-aids but I felt it better to air the wound.

I guess I'm more embarrassed than anything else because of this incident. This was a "territorial dispute" and nothing more. People in the country can't always pick up the phone and call the sheriff in an emergency. Dogs are one of the best burglar alarms money can buy in the country.

They will watch the dog for a few days while keeping him chained close to the house. I don't expect any problems. I travel a lot and have current immunizations for everything except the common cold. I've had a recent tetanus shot and unless I see signs of infection, I'll ignore it for the most part. The calve muscle is a little sore this evening but that's to be expected.

My next bicycle ride in the country will include a new can of "pepper spray". It's the best thing for both me and the dog.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

25,000 Hits

I started this blog, the very last of 2008, as a way to encourage others to enter the ham radio hobby. I've been licensed for a little over 15 years but didn't get "radio active" until retirement. What a difference that has made....

My stat counter jumped to a little over "25,000 hits" this morning, and I get a good percentage of return readers. That's encouraging to me, and I feel I may have helped a few people to enter this hobby. There are SO many different modes of radio, and SO much room for fun. Morse code is by no means the only mode available to hams today. There are dozens.

I wanted to take a few moments and thank those that regularly read about my enthusiasm with radio and simple stations. It's nice to know you're listening. I'm sort of fixed on code at the moment and rarely use a microphone. But everyone has their "place" in this hobby.

As an example:

There's a little small caption on the current band-plan charts now. It states that CW can be used on any portion of the radio spectrum. Few take advantage of the "fine print" on the charts.

I awoke early this morning, around 2:30 am, and tuned into upper portion of the 40 meters CW band. There were a couple of SSB stations there. I switched to the SSB mode, set the radio in the "split mode"--with SSB on the first VFO, and CW on the second.

All perfectly legal since 7125 MHz was in my "general portion" of the band. (He could have been right in the middle of the normal SSB section too and it's still a legal transmission on my part). I tried several times to work F5VTY in Southern France (couldn't find the call in a data base) but he either didn't hear me, or wasn't a CW operator. I've heard several European and Caribbean SSB stations in this portion of the bands over the last several months.

It's a shame more SSB ops either can't, or won't, acknowledge the call sign of a distant operator using Morse code. (I actually dropped my membership in one club because of this) I don't think it's difficult to set the radio into a split mode using two VFO's.

I did it successfully, many years ago, on a 40 meter Canadian Maritime net. The net control operator called for any station, any mode, for check in's for the shipping net in Canadian waters and I jumped at the chance to make a contact with Morse code. He felt the same, and we were both elated with the contact. He got a real "kick" out of my QRP station being able to communicate with him and the other ships.

That little caption about CW use covering the entire radio spectrum can be a BIG deal under the right conditions.

Thanks again to all those who read this blog regularly, your're missing a lot of fun if you don't pursue this hobby. It's the greatest hobby in the world.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tired of AM Radio--Here's an Alternative

I've recently ranted about the "drivel" on AM radio on this blog. There are many ham operators that are also AM radio broadcasters, but broadcasting and ham radio, are two totally different things. On a small scale, I'm considering becoming another addition to these ranks.

The drivel being transmitted on the local stations here is just nauseating. It's not factual, it's misleading (I'm being kind with these words) and it's become a cesspool that's sucking the life out of this state. In other words, AM radio has become an exclusive "propaganda machine" for one political party. It's not a democratic voice; it's terrible for our country. Our only alternative now is "satellite radio" but not everyone has this service or can afford it.

Several years ago, there were a couple of hams that operated a "community radio station" in a nearby town with a 10 watt transmitter. They played 50's and 60's music and I loved this station. I'd drive out of my way, to get within range of the transmitters "10 mile target area". But they didn't last long and they never re-applied for their license after it expired.

Looking at comments and information on the web, I've been alarmed that even a small AM stations "start up costs" could reach $100, 000. I'm retired--- never made "that" kind of money, and I'm not looking to create a corporation to borrow money and begin a questionable new business. I don't want another full time job. And the permitting process (even for a simple 10 watt community radio station) can take many, many months, if it's granted at all, by the FCC.

There's an answer to this problem now. It's called "part 15" low power hobby broadcasting and it doesn't cost much to put it on the air. I first became aware of it through an article in a recent radio magazine. Being perfectly legal, it gives the operator a 'fingerprint' of about a square mile.

I can reach several thousand people with that signal.

I'm looking at this very closely. I realize it's a very limited target area. I would only operate in the morning and evening hours. I'd use "local" musicians instead of "mass marketed musicians". I think there's a big market for this in this valley. In addition, using multiple transmitters, it's possible to cover the entire valley of more than 50,000 people. I have a local college and several hundred politicians in this immediate area too.

We have quite a variety of music here. There's Folk, Celtic, Cajun, Americana, Soft Rock, Gospel, and Symphonic music. We're blessed with an abundance of music and local people are always looking for an avenue to display their wares .

On the politics side....mountaintop mining is a big issue here. I'm not against all mining, just the mining that blows off the tops of mountains and shoves them into the hollows and pollutes our streams. It's important to have the proper people standing up for us in Congress and I'll address that issue with this station. And at the national level, I'll air an alternative voice to those that will listen. I'll be democratic in my ideology and offer some fresh air in this valley. Something that's not happening now....

My time line is around the first of the new year. I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Constitution Day

Anyone who reads this blog, even casually, knows that I'm a born and bred West Virginian. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that I think the late Senator Robert C Byrd could "walk on water" if he choose to do so. I absolutely loved this man, and his passing this year was a blow to the entire nation. He is the end of an "era" and there will never be another like him.

Forgive me, if this entry is more "politics" than radio. (it isn't radio related at all)
But today is "Constitution Day". It was establish and passed by congress in 2004.
(I'm sure you all knew that).

In my opinion, the Constitution has taken quite a battering these last few decades. Everyone loves it, as long as it fit's their corporate needs. If it doesn't, there's a Supreme Court justice that will re-affirm they're views for them. Personally, I feel our government is no longer responsive to the electorate. The important thing seems to be the will of lobbyist for special interest groups.

This, and partisan party bickering, is destroying this nation.

Senator Byrd was the champion of the Constitution and was a deeply religious man. He was always known for carrying a copy of the Constitution in his pocket. He could quote the Constitution and most of the Bible from memory. And I don't think there has ever been another legislator who earned their law degree attending college at night, after long hours in Congress.

He was a brilliant man.

There was a ceremony today at the Madison County Courthouse. (probably won't make the evening news). There's also a ceremony at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Charleston today.

Forgive me for the rant but today IS the day to focus on the Constitution. Since the former Senator Byrd was the champion in this instrument, I thought they both deserved a word or two.

Picture's used with permission of "Good News Mountaineer Garage". (

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

No Trespassing Sign

I can understand some people getting a little "fussy" about their property rights. But I thought this sign was a little "over the edge" as far as getting the point across. If you're wondering why the picture is a little "fuzzy"'s because I wasn't about to get out of the car and argue about it.
I shot it (pun intended) right through the windshield as I drove down this lonely country road.

I was looking for a "radio spot" as I drove through the mountains and away from the valley.
On the topo maps, there was an isolated "peak" in this area at a little over 2,500 feet elevation. It was a "long shot" (and I was within a rifle shot from their front porch), but always worth the effort to get a little advantage with some height and no electrical noise.

I'm always looking for a good transmission point with my portable station.

I don't expect to explore this hollow anymore, since "both" of the country roads in this area "dead ended" onto someones property. It was difficult to turn the car around at the end of the road without using their driveways and driving here forced me to move slowly. It's easy to read the license plate on my car with a cheap pair of binoculars.

I love this hobby...... but I'd hate to get "shot for trespassing" on private property.

I always respect property rights but don't think (if I were the owner) I'd go to this extreme.

I think they got the point across.......

Sunday, September 12, 2010

WW2LST Contact with California

Yes...that's me in the photo.

Yesterday, I took a quick drive out of the valley to visit an old WW2 warship that was docked on the river at Marietta Ohio. LST 325 is home ported in Evansville Indiana, but the ship traveled here for festivities associated with the Ohio River Stern-wheel Festival. I consider the LST to be the worst riding ship on the seas, due to its long flat bottom. It was designed to transport tanks and troops during World War Two. It rode worse than a destroyer....., and that's saying a lot.

I was a signalman on a Destroyer during the Vietnam conflict, so can identify with these small ships. I've also enjoyed making radio contacts with these history makers. My log book lists an old Coast Guard cutter up on the Great Lakes, a battleship in North Carolina, an old Destroyer in Baton Rouge, and a Submarine near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

As I exited the Bridge on LST-325 (these ships had no names), I asked one of the Crew Members if the radio room was still functional. To my amazement, he stated there were several hams aboard who kept it alive and well. Could I possibly see it? I asked. Better than that, he explained, they were actually on the air. And yes, let me show you where it's located.

I thought (being a ham) ....does it get any better than this? Well actually does.

Let me explain.....

As I was escorted back onto the bridge, the crew member led me into the "radio room" which was behind the Helm and Engine Order Telegraphs.

I was in Radio Heaven now.

I met Bob Pointer in the radio room (N9XAW) and we talked for a few minutes about the 600 watt transmitter and antenna's on the ship while dits and dots filled the background of the room.

Would you like to operate the radio? He asked me.

Are you serious?.... I responded.

I was ecstatic. So.......

Being a QRP operator, and thinking of 40 meters, I sent out the ships call (WW2LST) on 7040 a few times but got no response. I then tried the 40 meter FISTS frequency of 7058.

Hummmm....nothing on either frequency.

Bob suggested I try 20 meters and re-tuned to 14.027 (I didn't know the intricacies of the buttons, dials, SWR needles on the tuner etc) but he had it tuned perfectly in only a few moments.

I sent the ships call out again, and this time, the " K6AA Club Station" answered from San Pedro California.

It was a weak signal, with heavy QSB, but we managed to exchange the basic information. John stated they were a "club station" near Los Angeles California, and on the coast. When I stated earlier in this post "does it get any better than this? Well actually does", here's the explanation.

My wife and I were in Los Angeles a few years ago, awaiting a long flight, and we stayed in a Hotel near Huntington Beach. Several times we walked down an old "rail to trail" path from there to the shore to watch the volleyball players. (This beach is famous for Volleyball).
As we approached the shore, I noticed a large white building with dozens of wire antenna's and a large beam on the roof. I specifically mentioned to her that "I'd love to get my hands on that transmitter and those antenna's someday".

I assumed it was a Coast Guard Station.

But if you've clicked on the links to the "K6AA Club Station" , (on this post) by now, you'll see the "Maritime Museum". It's an enormous white building with lots and lots of antenna's on the roof. I remembered it immediately when I saw it from Google Earth program and all the things around it.

We walked right by this station and I made those comments. This was the station I worked today with the ships call (WW2LST).

Thanks again to Bob Pointer ((N9XAM) for a wonderful chance to operate the radio. I had no idea I was talking with a west coast station, that I was actually familiar with, from several years ago.

I'll remember this contact for years to come.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

50 Fools

Why do we allow 50 people to represent the entire United States?

That's hardly a gnat in this nation of 3o7 million yet our media has pasted this grain size group on every newspaper in America. And now it's spread all over the world.

I'll bet every reader of this blog knows exactly whom I'm referring to when I associate it with the upcoming anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.'s the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville Florida.

My very soul demands a statement on this group as I can no longer sit passively by when hate groups inflame and incite violence against others in the world.

The attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 was indeed a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. There were people from many nationalities killed on this day in America.

Some were Muslims.

There are also Muslims serving in our military and dying on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan today.

Although our Constitution demands "freedom of speech" as an ordinance for a functional government, I'm ashamed when I see 50 people allowing us to be smeared with such bad ink.

They don't represent me.

The ignorance in this country is absolutely astounding at times.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What Does Radio Mean to You?

I've been in the Untied Kingdom the last several weeks, so no time to spend writing about the ham radio hobby. (hence the big gap on the blog) Since I've been gone, several of my friends have given up on blogging. It's caused me to wonder why I spend time writing. To those of us who are battered with rising noise levels and operate under less than favorable conditions, this hobby has become more of a challenge everyday. I can understand why they're discouraged.

But I still can't deny my fascination with skipping signals into the sky, and never knowing where they will land, and to whom I will have a nice chat, and learn about their lives in the cities, towns and country where they live. For me, getting on the radio and talking to others is similar to traveling in the world. It doesn't make any difference if they're 50 miles or 5,000 miles away.

I've heard many shortwave stations while visiting distant places in the world. While on this trip to the United Kingdom, I stayed across the street from the BBC in London for a few days. One night I listened to a GREAT program about the guitar player Les Paul which was hosted by another guitar player named Dwayne Eddie. (I take along a little Grundig SWL pocket radio)

I can't imagine living without access to the worlds radio waves. Perhaps it's a form of paranoia but I consider radio fundamental to a thriving and prosperous society. Listening to radio (in any form) is like looking into the eyes and the minds of it's people.

But it's only "accurate" when programing is objective and allowed to flourish without undue monopolization of limited airspace. I thought often about the difference between programing in the United Kingdom and here in the United States on this trip. It was wonderful to actually hear "music" in England, and a well done documentary, about a variety of different subjects. Other than National Public Radio, here in the US, there's no comparison to the drivel heard on our AM stations.

I had a great time while traveling from the tip of Scotland, down through Whales, and into England. (actually it was a coach with a VERY good driver familiar with the left side of the road)

I was especially impressed with the city of London.

I'm disappointed that some of my blogging friends have decided not to write any more. I'd like to read more about their daily lives regardless of their radio contacts. Knowing we have the common bond of radio enhances our lives in so many ways.

I'll miss reading and seeing pictures about their lives on their radio blogs.